When it comes to Japanese recipe books, especially from a notable chef, part of me usually gets very excited and the other half me feels a bit of skepticism.
Having reviewed many Japanese culinary books from notable chef's to at-home mothers who wanted to share their own recipes, when it comes to chef's, you usually get beautiful coffee table books with beautiful photography but when it comes to the actual recipe and ingredients, these books are tailored to those who are practicing chef's and have the cutlery to partake in the dish, those with access to Japanese ingredients.
But for some, they are so world renown, especially from traveling the globe that they use the finest ingredients that they have come in contact with and it's how they create their dishes for their well-known restaurant typically reserved for the haute bourgeoisie and those that are looking for delicious food with the best ingredients.
And it's great to read how some chef's accomplish such dishes, may they get the spice from India, Malaysia, or somewhere in Japan that even local chef's have no access to. But that's how things are and the fact they are willing to share their culinary secrets is wonderful but for those of us living in the United States without access to a Japan Town, China Town let alone an Asian store that specializes in spices, cooking these dishes may prove to be too difficult.
So, when I finished going through "Japanese Home Cooking with Master Chef Murata", needless to say, I had a smile on my face. A smile because here is a book from a master chef from Japan, very well known and yet, he doesn't feel the need to make things difficult for the reader and those wanting to learn how to cook Japanese home cooking. He keeps things simple, basic and there is no request for one to have access to hard-to-find spices. All he asks is for one to have access to soy sauce, chicken broth, corn starch, possibly sake, peanut butter and other ingredients that you can find at your local supermarket.
Although not hardbound, you get clear instructions to the dish along with full color photos. Although some may have been used to hardbound Japanese cook books, "Japanese Home Cooking" is still a wonderful book from the master chef. Want to learn how to prepare seared rice balls with bacon soy sauce? No problem. He teaches you how to make the marinated sauce (2 tbsp of soy sauce, 4 tbsp of sake, 1 tbsp sugar) and mix this with the bacon in a pan over low heat and stirring until all liquid is gone. Then add the lemon peel, lemon juice and toasted sesame seeds. Then you get your rice and put 1/4 of rice on an 8 inch plastic wrap and place the bacon mixture to the center of the rice, shape the rice to a ball and create a patty. Then unwrap the rice ball and place on a pan and sear until well brown on both sides. So, easy to do!
And this goes for plenty of the recipes featured throughout this book. There are plenty of Japanese home cooked meals featured in this book. May it be a salad, sauteed dish, deep-fried dish, steamed dish, simmered dish, hot pots, rice and noodles and soups. From tempura to sukiyaki, tofu recipes to supplemental recipes on how to make your own rice to making a dashi stock and sauces.
I have to say that this is one Japanese cook book that I absolutely loved because Chef Murata kept things simple. No need to make things complicated and I like it when chefs can at least put themselves in the shoes of the consumer and knowing that not everyone, especially around the world have access to the best spices or access to hard-to-find vegetables in America or the other country that typically found in East Asia or other countries. And personally, I respect that a master chef is willing to take his time to reach out to that consumer for home cooking, even though they are so used to making extravagant dishes for their own customers at their restaurants.
"Japanese Home Cooking with Master Chef Murata" is clearly for those of us who are passionate about Japanese food, but food done easily with clear and concise recipes and easy-to-find ingredients in which anyone can find at a local supermarket.
You rarely find these type of cookbooks, especially coming from a well-renown master chef from Japan, created and tailored for a person regardless of cooking experience and location. He breaks things down simply and makes sure that eating Japanese food doesn't have to be so difficult. Murata wants you to experience, experiment and the better you get, try your own variations from the recipes he has provided in this cookbook.
A magnificent, user-friendly Japanese cookbook and easily deserving of five stars!